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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Trail of Tears began on my front doorstep... literally.

Oh yeah, one last note before I head out the door: I've blogged several times from the road, though I don't usually make a note of where I am. But from where I'm sitting right now if I look to my left and out through the window of Lisa's old bedroom, I can see the site of where the Vann House stood a few hundred yards away. That - and the land that Lisa's family lives on - used to be part of New Echota, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. Her family wound up owning most of this, though most of it got sold off over the years. But that already came a long time after one of the most notorious events of American history...

It will be 169 years ago tomorrow, on December 29th 1835, that at the Vann House - which I can see from the keyboard that I'm sitting at now - that the Treaty of New Echota was signed by representatives of the Cherokee Nation and the United States government. The Cherokee leaders agreed, in an effort to stave off more militant removal, to give up all their lands east of the Mississippi. In return they got $5 million and forced relocation of the Cherokee people - courtesy of the United States army - to a large tract of land in distant Oklahoma. A little bit further away from the Vann House (it's at New Echota State Historic Site near Calhoun, Georgia) was the first "relocation camp" (really an armed fort) that the Cherokee were rounded up at before being shipped off.

The Trail of Tears had begun. 169 years ago tomorrow. And within clear eyeshot of where I type these words from.

That's not all that New Echota is remembered for. The Cherokee government was based very much on the United States Constitution: you can even visit the reconstructions of their capitol and supreme court buildings at the site. And there is also the building where the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper was printed in both English and Cherokee. Oh yeah, I also gotta mention that the Cherokee were the only nation of Native Americans to have their own written language. They owed that feat to the wise and noble Sequoia, who also made his home on the very land where I'm writing this from.

As an American, a follower of Christ, a historian, and being part-Cherokee myself, this spot can be a pretty humbling place to consider some things.